Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

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Dylan
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 9:28 pm

Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#1 Post by Dylan » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:35 pm

I'm surprised this doesn't have a thread yet, seeing as it was in production a couple years ago and premiered at Cannes one year ago. I also haven't seen any notice on here about it having been released in America earlier this month via On Demand (and will subsequently have a limited theatrical and DVD/Blu-Ray release August 30th).

I watched Passion twice in a row a week ago and I think it's one of Brian De Palma's greatest films, probably his best film since his heyday in the seventies (my personal favorite has always been Obsession since viewing it on a VHS sometime during high school - interesting how both De Palma and Obsession's writer Paul Schrader have new films being released On Demand this month - speaking of which, The Canyons, which I also watched last week, also doesn't have a thread here).

I haven't seen the movie this is based on, Love Crime, but I thought Passion was wonderful and a lot of fun. Lush and sleazy, thematically rich, emotionally heightened, the "real" world be damned, visually gorgeous, surrealistic, everybody in glamorous wardrobe (I loved everything McAdams wore - very nineteen-fifties), and all of the aforementioned in service to a very tricky plot that I found incredibly exciting to watch unravel. Lord knows De Palma has fallen off this horse before, bringing operatic and real emotionalism to the thriller genre, but when he's on he really is working in a field all by himself. I loved this film.

Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace are a joy to watch - in every scene it's clear that they're just relishing the intense and overdone melodrama, both of them driving hysterical, theatrical life into the snide, scathing one-upmanship of their characters. They "overplay" in ways I wish more contemporary actors were given the chance to in contemporary cinema. It's an older, theatrical, deliberately stylish kind of performance. Had this been made in the thirties Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford (two of my favorite actresses) wouldn't have played these roles much differently.

Pino Donaggio's score oozes Romance, overt sleaze, and orchestral intensity, sometimes all in the same cue - at times you believe you're hearing a lost Bernard Herrmann theme or a strangely lush passage from 1970's giallo, at other times it sounds like 1990's soft core pornography music on Skinemax! (De Palma ought to helm an Emmanuelle remake and have Donaggio score it) I love this composer and he delivers here, but De Palma is known to give composers a canvas to really set loose on and this is no exception.

The cinematography is lovely and includes a
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fascinating surrealist change-up for the final half
. De Palma recently said in an interview that this will probably be his last film shot on 35mm. The split screen here - too - is probably the best use of it in all of De Palma. It helps to love ballet.

A breath of fresh, much-needed, completely off-the-wall, glorious air that emanates from a sort of filmmaking ether I really, really wish more directors were emerging from these days. This movie is insane and feverish, and in my opinion, just great.

Much more to discuss, like
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the interpretation that from the humiliation scene onward the second half of the film is actually a nightmare version of the events being dreamed by Rapace
, but I'll wait until (if) more of you chime in. Especially the De Palma fans, of which there are a few around here.

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Black Hat
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 5:34 pm
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Re: Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#2 Post by Black Hat » Sat Sep 14, 2013 2:49 pm

I give Passion credit for not being shy about what it is, an over the top thriller designed thru connecting points of ridiculous humor, visual lushness and sinister erotic. What I liked very much about the film was the way technology was used. I find that this is an aspect of modern life that cinema has yet to tap into its storytelling potential and De Palma did well here.

Dylan wrote: The cinematography is lovely and includes a
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fascinating surrealist change-up for the final half
.
What are you referring to specifically?
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the video?... one thing about the film that got me a bit was what was up with Isabelle & Dirk? That whole dynamic didn't make much sense to me.
Dylan wrote: The split screen here - too - is probably the best use of it in all of De Palma. It helps to love ballet.
I thought this sequence was by far the film's strongest but
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was it just me or were the dancers not very good?
Dylan wrote: Much more to discuss, like
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the interpretation that from the humiliation scene onward the second half of the film is actually a nightmare version of the events being dreamed by Rapace
, but I'll wait until (if) more of you chime in. Especially the De Palma fans, of which there are a few around here.
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There are so many contradictions going on that you'd have to think it was some kind of dream. She wakes up multiple times, McAdams comes back from the dead, the drugs which probably led to the nightmares.

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R0lf
Joined: Tue May 19, 2009 7:25 am

Re: Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#3 Post by R0lf » Sat Sep 14, 2013 7:48 pm

Black Hat wrote:
Dylan wrote: The cinematography is lovely and includes a
SpoilerShow
fascinating surrealist change-up for the final half
.
What are you referring to specifically?
SpoilerShow
the video?... one thing about the film that got me a bit was what was up with Isabelle & Dirk? That whole dynamic didn't make much sense to me.
I think the surrealist change they are talking about is the over the top "noir" vertical blind and shadowing effect.

And also on the cinematography in true De Palma fashion there is a lot of wandering camera in the movie with cutting kept to a minimal and for dramatic effect. Though it isn't nearly as long in this movie they repeated the single take from Raising Cane with Rapace walking out of her office and the camera following her into the elevator then out and into her car.
Black Hat wrote:
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McAdams comes back from the dead.
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I THOUGHT SHE WAS LYING ABOUT THE TWIN SISTER!

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domino harvey
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Re: Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#4 Post by domino harvey » Sat Nov 23, 2013 3:49 pm

Just received this in the mail and was surprised to see it packaged within a bright red Blu-ray case! I guess this means studios have decided consumers have officially forgotten HD-DVDs!

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oh yeah
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Re: Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#5 Post by oh yeah » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:09 pm

I'm somewhat surprised there hasn't been more discussion on this! Anyway, as a huge De Palma fan, I really enjoyed it; it's probably in the upper half of his filmography, if that makes any sense. Everyone here is very good: McAdams is sort of like her character in Mean Girls, a decade later and even crueler, and she plays it with delicious ferocity. Rapace plays "wounded" very well, and one can't help but sympathize with her at least for the first two-thirds of the film. Speaking of that, I loved how the mise-en-scene takes such a dramatic turn for the expressionistic at around that two-thirds (or is it halfway?) point, when the sleeping pills enter the picture; suddenly, there's a hazy blue tint to everything, rooms are bathed in Venetian-blind shadows (pure noir imagery), and the narrative just generally feels more slippery, more dreamlike. Then we've got one of De Palma's finest sequences in years, that beautiful split-screen murder/ballet tour de force that recalls earlier flicks like Dressed to Kill but still feels totally tonally unique in his work. I also loved the ending:
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"The End" popping up and the dream ending (or was it one?) just as all these utterly terrifying disparate narrative elements are coming to a head, was perfectly cathartic yet still unsettling; it felt very much like the kind of worst-case-scenario that happens in nightmares a lot. And McAdams, clad in black and sunglasses, slowly yet determinedly walking up Rapace's apartment staircase, is one of the eeriest images De Palma has created.
Overall, it's perhaps not a terribly substantive movie, and naturally feels lightweight put next to what I'd consider De Palma's masterpieces -- Carlito's Way, Blow Out, Body Double, Scarface, Femme Fatale, etc. -- but as a kind of masterfully assured grab-bag of auterist obsessions, it's a whole lot of fun, and more emotionally compelling as a story than it has any right to be. As per usual with DP, this one's got a IMDb rating somewhere in the low 5's -- I know, it doesn't matter, but I'm honestly surprised... I'd think that just as a straight lurid thriller, non-De Palma fans and even more mainstream viewers could enjoy this.

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domino harvey
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Re: Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#6 Post by domino harvey » Thu Nov 28, 2013 12:02 am

I don't like De Palma nearly as much as the rest of the board, but I do love at least one of his films and enjoy several others, so I went into this with an open mind. I haven't seen a De Palma film newer than Snake Eyes (which I did enjoy), so I also thought it'd be a good chance to sort of see where he's at these days. However, uh, I thought this was all pretty silly.
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As stated several times before on this board, I have very little patience for "It was all a dream... or was it?" narratives, and as the film started stacking on its twists and sitting up straight in bed awakenings, I grew incredulous and impatient. I also didn't think anything about how the film was shot, other than De Palma's infamous split-screens, was any different than any random French thriller from the last twenty years. And on that subject, De Palma cheats with how he shoots much of the second half-- if the whole confession/prison drugging of Rapace is in fact an act, why shoot it as though she really were drugged? This isn't misdirecting the audience, this is lying to the audience. Hitchcock tried and got away with this exactly once, but De Palma's attempt falters.
And the corporate intrigue stuff was already done with far more disturbing undercurrents by demonlover, any ten minutes of which destroy any good done here. So, sorry to say this isn't one for the Win column on my end. What's the accepted line on recent worthwhile De Palma pics, though? Anything else I should give a chance to?

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Cold Bishop
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Re: Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#7 Post by Cold Bishop » Thu Nov 28, 2013 12:51 am

Femme Fatale is pure grade-A De Palma, for good or ill, so that's probably the best litmus test.

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#8 Post by knives » Thu Nov 28, 2013 3:51 am

I think The Black Dahlia is far better than it's reputation suggests, though I am far kinder to him than you probably are. If nothing else though the William Finley cameo is worth a watch. Just don't go in expecting a noir or anything that looks period appropriate.

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colinr0380
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Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#9 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Nov 28, 2013 2:07 pm

I have to admit that I've been holding off on watching both Passion and the original French version Love Crime for fears of how they could ever hope to stand up to demonlover!

And I very much like Redacted (major spoilers in my post there), feeling that it is one of the best of the bunch of Iraq war films that came out in the late 2000s, but I get the feeling that I might be the only one to feel that way! It is kind of the internet age, streaming video, 24 hour news, videochat updating of many of the same issues dealt with in Casualties of War (the repetition with minor technological and locational adjustments perhaps being the most damning aspect of the film).

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knives
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Re: Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#10 Post by knives » Thu Nov 28, 2013 2:21 pm

The original definitely doesn't match up.

LavaLamp
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Re: Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#11 Post by LavaLamp » Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:20 am

Just saw Passion on BD, and felt it was superb. DePalma definitely still has it. It reminded me a lot of his past films, with the obvious Hitchcock-ian nods. Visually lush, with a truly impressive soundtrack. Especially liked the sequence(s) with the characters walking up the winding apartment staircase.
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I did feel the ending was confusing, however. Was that RM's twin at the funeral, or wasn't it? Also, at the very end, was that incriminating e-mail sent? It looks like it wasn't, but this wasn't 100% clear.
I will definitely need to check this out again...

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colinr0380
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Re: Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#12 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Feb 02, 2014 9:03 pm

I've finally got to Passion and enjoyed it a lot, although as mentioned above it seriously pales in comparison to demonlover, which did a similarly female-centric twisty-turny tale of paranoid boardroom backstabbing and sexual shenanigans magnificently. And I do agree with domino that it is all pretty silly and relies far too much on 'it was all a dream...or was it?...no it wasn't!....yes it was!!!" dramatics that were much more fully explored in Raising Cain. However despite that I think Passion has a lot to offer, particularly to Brian De Palma fans familiar with his brand of operatic melodrama. As soon as one character starts talking about the twin sister that they lost in a childhood accident the De Palma fanboy in me was on high alert! That is also one of the most amusingly blunt ways I have ever seen of bullying someone into saying "I love you" almost as a pity response, which makes a nice parallel with the final 'bullying into a love affair' scene. This is a great film to put people off sex for life! Why go through all the fuss and bother, and ridiculous latex dog masks (special thanks and the website address given for the sex gear manufacturers in the end credits!), for all of the complications that ensue from it?

In the end I suppose the film is just a giant Information Governance lecture teaching every employee that it is very important to lock and password protect their computer when logged in but leaving it unattended for any reason!

The film seems surprisingly stylistically restrained in its first half (which is where the demonlover comparisons are really the most problematic) despite one obvious split diopter shot early on (the scene where Isabel is shown the drawer of Christine's sex toys) but, as talked about above, you can tell De Palma is at the helm with the stunning split screen ballet/stalking sequence at the mid-point of the film, from which point everything starts going into canted angles, the camera as the character sequences and almost parodically moody shots of sunlight streaming through vertical blinds. On whether the ballet dancers were particularly good at dancing or not, I think that question is secondary to the way that the dance is staged with the dancers looking into camera on their half of the screen while Christine is doing the same on hers! (Kudos to De Palma on restaging the Psycho shower scene by the way!)

From earlier in the film, I liked the way that there were a couple of scenes that intercut action between Christine and Isabel in two different locations but performing parallel, or linked, actions (their bedroom scenes, Christine having sex while Isbael is in bed with her laptop; and the scene where Christine is pensive, thinking of where to look for a new partner against Isabel brooding in her office over her fateful decision to release her video on YouTube. Incidentally I like the way that the inciting incident of Christine taking credit for Isabel's idea didn't actually seem to be that big of a betrayal, just a normal boss behaviour!). That seemed to me to suggest how closely bonded the characters were together, as if the intercutting was suggesting that they were inhabiting the same scene (or even the same person, and I was preparing myself for a Sisters-style twist), and I think this is subliminally preparing the audience for both the splitscreen sequence and the final section of the film.

Some other moments I loved: the Raising Cain/Carrie shock ending, the interrogation scene that is very reminiscent of the post-murder interrogation in Body Double; the walk into and out of the lift at a different floor in one take reminiscent of the opening of Bonfire of the Vanities; the hilariously blatant use of Apple product placement throughout, which is so prevalent that it has to be some kind of commentary (see also the sudden appearance of the sacrificial Coca-Cola vending machine in the parking garage!); another gorgeously rich Pino Donaggio score. And especially the way that there are so many layers of hierarchies of characters (including Isabel's maidservants/colleagues and Christine's builders) all kind of performing the same functions, that the characters seem like they have multiple echoes of echoes of echoes of people standing in line behind them ready for the opportunity to take their place in the spotlight. And in that echoing process going down the hierarchy the characters become cruder, blunter and more ruthless in their actions as they go.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:39 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Roger_Thornhill
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:35 pm

Re: Passion (Brian De Palma, 2013)

#13 Post by Roger_Thornhill » Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:16 pm

I enjoyed 'Passion' as well for many of the same reasons as the OP, but it really is a film that probably only hardcore DePalma fans will like. In my view it's not even close to being his best film, but it is a return to form for him after the lackluster 'Redacted'. I hope DePalma continues in this vein though in making sleazy erotic thrillers because that's what he's best at.

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